McAuliffe Center Receives $30K Grant for New Program Aimed at Low-Income Children

McAuliffe Center Receives $30K Grant for New Program Aimed at Low-Income Children

Oct 23, 2017

The Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning announced a new initiative on October 17th that supports out-of-school time programs serving youth from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Space Station Explorers for Out-of-School Time Program is made possible thanks to a $30,000 sponsorship agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It will provide students from low-income backgrounds with free opportunities to experience the wonderful interactive STEM programs available at the McAuliffe Center’s Challenger Learning Center and FSU Planetarium.

“The McAuliffe Center brings science to life for kids and can be the spark that inspires greater interest in the STEM subjects,” says FSU President Javier Cevallos. “We are so grateful to CASIS for providing us with this funding, which allows us to reach students who not only come from low-income backgrounds, but are also underrepresented in STEM fields.”

The McAuliffe Center’s Challenger Learning Center currently hosts thousands of students from around the region each year for immersive, hands-on STEM education activities through the simulated Expedition Mars and the Earth Odyssey program, as well as in FSU’s digital planetarium. But because there is a cost to operate these programs, many low-income school districts serving financially disadvantaged students are not able to pay the fee associated with attending the McAuliffe Center. The result is that only a small percentage of the kids who visit the McAuliffe Center each year come from low-income families. In addition, few of the students come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM fields.

“A large part of our mission is to inspire students to gain a new interest and appreciation for the STEM fields,” says Dr. Irene Porro, Director of the McAuliffe Center. “In order to truly do that, we need to be reaching out to financially disadvantaged and underrepresented populations. That’s why I am so excited about this new program.”

The program was announced during a special open house event at the McAuliffe Center on October 17th. Organizations represented at the event included the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education; Framingham Public Schools; CASIS; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Genes in Space; Zero Robotics / Innovation Learning Center; Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; and Windows on Earth / TERC.

To learn more about CASIS, visit

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.